DATE: Sunday, February 3, 2013
TIME: 12:30 p.m
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Brigitte Wilburg
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Adopting a Traumatized Child: A Phenomenological Investigation of Eight Families’ Postadoptive Experience of the Psychological and Neurobiological Impact of Early Childhood Trauma"
PROGRAM-TRACK/YEAR: PhD-A; 2005
CHAIR: Dr. Avedis Panajian
READER: Dr. Barbara Shore
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Margreth Knirsch
Wilburg, B. (2012). Adopting a Traumatized Child: A Phenomenological Investigation of Eight Families’ Postadoptive Experience of the Psychological and Neurobiological Impact of Early Childhood Trauma (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012)
This study investigated the lived experiences of eight adoptive families who adopted from seven countries. Eight adoptive mothers participated in interviews, answering open-ended questions through which they were asked to describe in detail their experience of adopting a child. The researcher sought to discover the prevalence and degree of postadoption stress, anxiety, or depression for adoptive parents of domestically or internationally, postinstitutionalized adopted children and by what mechanisms the child’s and parents’ responses are triggered and healed.
A phenomenological research methodology was used in an effort to establish naturally emergent commonalities of the adoption experience and the development of standardized education and treatment models. The interviews took place over the phone, and the participants were asked to describe their feelings and experiences prior to adopting their child and after they brought home their child. Follow-up questions were asked to clarify the experiences of the families and the treatments they implemented to help heal their children.
The results of the study supported the research literature regarding the neuroscience of early trauma, issues in attachment, and therapeutic parenting and illuminated the need for more research on the psychological and neurobiological impact of early trauma, on both the children and their adoptive families. The results revealed gaps in knowledge and treatment interventions among adoption professionals, therapists, and pediatricians. A critical need for adoption-preparedness training and post-adoption support services became starkly obvious.
Children who experience early trauma often miss critical developmental milestones, which results in neurodevelopmental deficits that affect attachment, learning, and affect regulation. The 14 children of the families in the study suffered from numerous disorders such as sensory processing disorder, reactive attachment, attention deficit and hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress, for which their parents were largely unprepared. Because of the lack of preparedness training for adoptive parents and support services for their children, all eight mothers reported suffering from one or a combination of chronic stress, depression, or anxiety after their adoptions. The mothers found healing for their children and for themselves when they connected with other adoptive families and alternative healing practitioners whom they met on online support groups.Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria.